Posts Tagged ‘Bill Mantlo’

Looking Forward to 2015: Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

The two comic related stories that impressed me the most this past year were the Kirby v. Marvel settlement and Rocket Raccoon co-creator, Bill Mantlo’s generous treatment by Marvel in response to the  Guardians of the Galaxy film.

I found these moments to be significant because they were the culmination of decades of struggle by the men, their families, and a legion supporters of Creators Rights in the Comics Industry.

Thirty years ago, the idea of Jack Kirby or his family being compensated appropriately for the Marvel characters he created or co-created was an idealistic fantasy that most people believed could never be fulfilled.

Twenty-two years ago, when prolific Marvel writer Bill Mantlo suffered a traumatic head injury in a tragic accident, there was little hope that any potential success gleaned from characters or stories that he created while working in comics would benefit his long term care.

In 2014, after years of monumental success of comic book properties in film, the ice began to thaw on the relationship between creators and comic book companies. Deals began to happen behind closed doors to satisfy creators who challenged ownership of properties that had long been held tightly under the premise of “Work for Hire.”

Though everything regarding Creator’s Rights in comics may still not be perfect, strides have been made.

For me, little was much more pleasing than watching a proud and content Neal Kirby participate in a Marvel 75th Anniversary Celebration or seeing pictures of a beaming Bill Mantlo watching a private screening of Guardians of the Galaxy from his bed in a long term care facility, all set up by Marvel executives.

Knowing that deals have finally been made to secure the Kirby family well into the future and that Bill Mantlo will be the recipient of royalties that could be used to support his tremendous healthcare needs proves what many of us in the comics industry believed, that creators could and should be beneficiaries of the success of their creations.

It also proved that if you believe in something strong enough, work at it hard enough, and have enough support from the people around you, you should never give up. There is hope for the future.

While working on the fourth volume of David Anthony Kraft’s COMICS INTERVIEW: The Complete Collection,  I had the opportunity to re-read an interview with me and Art Director, Geraldine Pecht while at Comico in 1987. It was a look back at my own hopes and dreams nearly three decades past in comparison to the reality that transpired.

It was true affirmation that we have no idea what the future holds but that some dreams never die. It was a flashback that rekindled a youthful enthusiasm that I can only hope to maintain throughout 2015 and beyond.

I had big plans for Comico in 1987. Plans that, for me, ended abruptly that same year. Like the Kirby family and Bill Mantlo, though, I have never given up and neither has by former Comico partner, Bill Cucinotta who had his Comico career cut short prior to mine.

Now we both have big plans for CO2 Comics but with the benefit of many hard lessons learned.

Comico Black Book cover

When I sat for that interview, Comico was at it’s peak and ready to celebrate its five year anniversary with a little product called Comico Black Book. Little did we know, the company was was poised to crash and burn.

I comparison, halfway through our fifth year, CO2 Comics is still building a solid foundation and growing.   Though we may not have had the meteoric successes that we had with Comico and have seen our share of setbacks, Bill and I are content that  we work with people we trust and have mutual respect for. We have more control over our product and integrity and we produce comics and product in a way that does not put us in jeopardy of the production expenses the distribution system or the competition that existed in the 1980’s.

The future is bright and hopeful for CO2 Comics because we have held on to a dream that we are unwilling to give up. Yes, we are looking forward to 2015 and many years after that!

Thanks to all the wonderful people that continue to believe in us and support us. We could not have come this far without you!

We wish you all a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year as we look forward to 2015!

Gerry Giovinco

Groot and Rocket Raccoon: More Than Guardians of the Galaxy

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

The world is about to get giddy over yet another Marvel movie as fans everywhere pace, feverishly waiting for the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY film to be released on August 1.

The reviews that are beginning to proliferate are overwhelmingly positive with an early 100% rating at Rotten Tomatoes!

Most of the early reviews claim that the breakout stars of the film are Groot and Rocket Raccoon which is awesome because they are credited to two creators with significant ties to the comic industry’s great charity, The Hero Initiative. The Hero Initiative supports comic creators that are facing difficult times, especially those  in the twilight of their lives. Please take the time to learn more about the mission of this organization here.

Nothing needs to be said about the tremendous creative contributions that the legendary Jack Kirby has made to the medium of comics. Many know that Kirby is responsible for at least co-creating most of the major characters in the Marvel Universe and that there has been an ongoing battle between his heirs and Marvel regarding compensation and copyright revision that is currently being considered to be heard by none other than the Supreme Court of the United States.

Your average movie goer may be surprised to learn that Kirby had his hand in the creation of Groot as well. Groot, who first appeared in TALES TO ASTONISH #13, published in November 1960 even predates all of the popular Silver Age Marvel characters!

Jump ahead 54 years and know that Jack Kirby, who passed away twenty years ago, would be celebrating his 97th birthday this month on August 28 and to honor his legacy, his granddaughter, Jillian Kirby,  is out beating the drums for the third consecutive year, promoting her Kirby4Heroes campaign. Jillian, in true Kirby heroic fashion, celebrates her grandfather’s birthday by cooperating with retailers and comic artists across the country to raise money for The Hero Initiative. Last year she raised over $10,000 and is shooting for $15,000 this year.

If you discover that you love Groot as much as everyone expects, please take your time to tip your hat to one of his creators by supporting the Kirby4Heroes campaign this month. Information on how you can participate can be found at

As for Rocket Raccoon, his co-creator, Bill Mantlo, could be a poster child for The Hero Initiative’s wonderful work. Bill was the victim of a tragic accident that has left him severely brain damaged since 1992. According to Bill’s brother, Mike Mantlo, The Hero Initiative that was the first organization to step forward and help on behalf of the comics industry when Bill needed it the most. Mike says he will always be indebted to them for their kindness.

Bill remains in a long term healthcare facility but his brother continues to keep him connected with his fans by sharing information about him regularly on a Bill Mantlo facebook group page. Happily,  Bill is well aware of the excitement that is being generated Rocket Raccoon and is proud that his work is being recognized!

Guardians of the Galaxy is sure to be a blockbuster this year but it has a great opportunity to shine a high profile light on the real people that are responsible for the fantasies we enjoy in the comics and now on the big screen. Many of these creators are no longer with us but their genius continues to influence our popular culture in a huge way.

So when you are stuffing your face with popcorn and reveling in the exploits of Groot and Rocket Raccoon, stare deeply into their beady little CGI eyes and remember that they are more than just Guardians of the Galaxy. They, and every other character on that screen, are results of the labor of comic creators who are real people with real, lives, families, hopes dreams and, unfortunately,  tragedies and ill fortune.

Contributing to The Hero Initiative on their behalf is a great way to thank them  indirectly for the joy that their imaginations continue to inspire and to help those creators that may need a supportive hand from all of us.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco

‘Marvel Studios: Assembling A Universe’ – A Kit With Instructions

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Tonight ABC television airs a special, ‘Marvel Studios: Assembling A Universe’ that is being promoted as an exclusive look inside the world of Marvel Studios.

Marvel’s website succinctly describes the world premiere primetime event:

“Marvel Studios has pioneered and broken box-office records around the world, creating a cinematic universe unlike any other in pop culture history through its blockbuster films. Beginning with “Iron Man” in 2008 and continuing today through “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” on ABC and the theatrical release of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” this April, the Marvel Cinematic Universe presents audiences with some of the most groundbreaking and dynamic storytelling that brings an unprecedented vision to the world of entertainment.

In this exclusive primetime documentary special, audiences will be taken further into the Marvel Cinematic Universe than ever before, offering viewers a front row seat to the inception of Marvel Studios, the record-breaking films, the cultural phenomenon, and further expansion of the universe by Marvel Television.

Marvel’s first television special documents the exciting story behind Marvel Studios and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, featuring exclusive interviews and behind-the-scenes footage from all of the Marvel films, the Marvel One-Shots and “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Viewers will walk a clear path through this amazing and nuanced universe, featuring sneak peeks at the future of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” on ABC, new footage from Marvel Studios’ upcoming theatrical releases, “Captain America: The Winter Solider” and “Guardians of The Galaxy,” and a sneak peek at the upcoming Marvel’s “The Avengers: Age of Ultron.'”

Curiously, they never mention the words “comics” or “comic books” once in their own promotion of this marketing extravaganza.


Fortunately early clips from the documentary shown on other sites quote Marvel Comics’ Editor-In-Chief, Axel Alonso saying,

“What Marvel Studios has done is very similar to what Marvel Comics did back in the day. They’ve built individual stories to stand on their own two feet, then they found a way to take those stories and weave them into a larger narrative.”

Thank you… I think.

Marvel Studios needs to pinch themselves, wake up and come to the stark (pun intended) realization that they are not creating anything. They are ADAPTING!

They are assembling this cinematic universe of theirs from a kit whose instructions were clearly established over a 73 year history by a ton of creative individuals whose professional careers were dedicated to making comic books!

Forget IRON MAN in 2008, let’s start with CAPTAIN AMERICA in 1941 and see where the Marvel Universe would be without their First Avenger that was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.

That’s right, the same Jack Kirby whose name pops up when you also mention the creation of, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Avengers and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. all of which  he collaborated on with some guy named Stan Lee throughout the 1960’s.

Stan Lee? Yeah, he was Editor-in-Cheif back in the day” and was probably the guy most responsible for finding a way to weave those stories into a “larger narrative” since he was sitting behind the big desk at the time, directing traffic and providing the final scripting on all of those comics.

Let’s not even get started on the Guardians of the Galaxy whose long list of creator contributors include the names of folks like Arnold Drake, Gene Colan, Steve Englehart, Steve Gan,  Bill Mantlo and Keith Giffen just to name a few.

By the way, there is one Guardian that has been lurking around the Marvel Universe since 1960. Yup! Groot made his first appearance in TALES TO ASTONISH #13 and is credited to – guess who? Stan Lee, and Jack Kirby along with a fella named Dick Ayers who also contributed to the creation of Iron Man.

Don’t be surprised if that alien shown in the T.A.H.I.T.I. episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. turns out to be Groot regenerating in that giant test tube. He is, after all, an alien plant species that was once held captive by S.H.I.E.L.D., became member of Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos and was later selected by the Kree to join the Guardians of the Galaxy to battle Ultron and the Phalanx where he sacrificed his life only to be brought back from the dead by Rocket Raccoon who managed to regrow him  by planting  one of his branches.

Nah!  That shit only happens in comic books.

Marvel Studios is working with a gold mine of material even after licensing out huge properties like Spider-man, X-Men and The Fantastic Four. Thanks to work-for-hire conditions in the comics industry the bulk of that material was produced for a  mere page rate and most of those creators that originally built that universe will never see a thin dime in royalties delivered to them or their heirs, especially not those of the late Jack Kirby whose creative genius is associated with most of this current crop of film and television that the Marvel Universe is built on.

Maybe, like Groot, there is hope that a seed, a branch or a twig could be planted and justice could grow from a bad deal that has been declared dead.

Remember, that without those comic books, none of these films and television shows will have ever existed and neither will have all the industry that is built around licensing and merchandising them, creating tons jobs that help support our economy.

What entertainment would we be enjoying this summer without Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, Stan Lee and the rest of those comic book creators?

Without them there is no Marvel Universe to assemble.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco

Joe Simon Deserves More Than a Concession

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Marvel superheroes are anticipating a big summer on the silver screen with four blockbusters waiting in the wings. Captain America, Spider-Man, X-Men and The Guardians of the Galaxy are all ready to prove that their real superpowers are their ability to generate billions of dollars worldwide from ticket sales and merchandising.

With all that cash soon to be whirling around, It was a wonderful feeling to discover from  Bill Mantlo’s brother Mike, that Marvel had come to an agreement that would compensate Bill fairly for his part in co-creating Rocket Raccoon, the expected breakout star of the Guardians of the Galaxy film due in August. It is a bitter sweet victory since Bill now resides in a nursing home a victim of permanent brain damage sustained by a terrible accident in 1992.

Marvel’s settlement with Bill Mantlo, though undisclosed, appears to be one that is quite satisfactory to his family and is indicative of other agreements that seem to be quietly negotiated with other creators whose characters were created as work-for hire and are now being featured in this wave of popular films. Creators appear to be receiving some type of small ongoing royalties from profits generated by their work.

For those of us that grew up worshiping Marvel and the creators that brought so much excitement into our lives,  it is a dream come true to see Marvel attempting to treat the creators fairly and compensate them for their contribution.

Unfortunately the realization of this dream is just a mirage.

In less than a month Captain America: The Winter Soldier will burst into theaters and the granddaughter of Cap’s co-creator, Joe Simon, celebrated it’s impending release with a lovely tribute intended to remember her grandfather’s most significant contribution to the world of comics.

Megan Margulies writes about how her grandfather, who passed away in 2011 shortly after Captain America the First Avenger was released, was always so proud of his creation. She subtly points out that he had reached a settlement with Marvel in 2003 that relinquished all of his rights to the character for a an amount of money so small it left the most meaningful part of the agreement being that his name and the name of co-creator Jack Kirby was required to be displayed during the opening credits of any Captain America movie.

She describes seeing his credit on the film as a great source of pride for her and Joe’s extended family as they all represented him at the LA premier of the film.

As much as anyone can appreciate being recognized for our accomplishments we all know that pride is wonderful but, at the end of the day, that and a cup of coffee ain’t getting anyone anywhere.

Dig a little deeper and read Megan’s 2013 Fourth of July tribute to her grandfather and you realize that, in her own poetic way, she wants the world to know that this man that co-created one of the greatest superheroes of all time lived a very modest life until his death at 98.

He lived in a small messy apartment that he shared with mice and a squeaky armchair. His most prominent piece of furniture was his ink splattered drawing board. The family found it necessary to sell off most of his art, a piece of which her fiancé bought for her from auction in remembrance of her grandfather.

This humble and loved man was proud of his creation but he and his family never had and never will benefit from the incredible wealth that Captain America is able to generate.

So, in my opinion, Megan’s tribute reads like an eloquent concession speech given by someone who has lost a great battle.  She took the high road and showed tremendous sportsmanship, choosing to focus on Joe Simon’s legacy rather than the ugly details.

Megan has taken the same road as the Kirby family who have finally lost a bitter war with Marvel over their father’s stake in not just Captain America but many of the characters in the Marvel Universe.

The Kirby’s, in defeat, have similarly focused on preserving Jack’s legacy by actively promoting a positive image of his contribution to comics, and managing a wonderful Kirby4Heroes campaign to aid the Hero Initiative.

It fascinates me that Marvel can pick and choose those that they are willing to compensate in an effort to manipulate public opinion while those that have been most responsible for their vast wealth are perpetually denied.

To me, it is a crime to march a creator’s family on to a stage to promote a film whose movie premier alone probably cost more than the settlement that Joe Simon received.  It is a travesty that the actors portraying the characters make more for one film than Joe Simon and Jack Kirby made in their lifetimes. It’s a shame that the profits generated from these films could support a small country yet the heirs of these creators find themselves selling prints on etsy, surely not for the fun of it.


it is a huge mistake to read Megan Margulies tribute to her grandfather and get so overwhelmed by the tremendous respect and pride that she has for what Joe Simon accomplished that we fail to remember that he and his family are victims of an unscrupulous corporation that will deny fair and reasonable compensation to the families of their greatest creators.

Marvel, you had us going there for a second, but compensating creators needs to be more than a PR stunt. Make it a retroactive and significant part of your corporate strategy and then we will all be impressed. Until then, enjoy watching creators die in poverty while your execs and shareholders get fat at their expense.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco

Rocket Raccoon Not Rabid as Expected

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

The battle over fair compensation for comic book creators whose creations have generated enormous profits for the corporations that now own them is almost as old as the industry itself. In most cases the fight is futile since most comic creators simply do not have the economic clout to legally go after companies as mighty as Marvel or DC and their parent corporations, Disney and Time/Warner.

Shame is the greatest tool that creators have found to expedite justice and it seems to work. Neal Adams relied on it heavily when he publicly shamed DC into settling with Superman creators Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster who were living in poverty prior to the release of the first blockbuster SUPERMAN film.

Creators are gaining an upper hand these days thanks to shame. It is much easier to demonstrate to the public the gross disparity of a struggling, aging and infirm cartoonist as opposed to a monolithic corporation who is potentially making billions off of their creation.

Behind closed doors settlement deals are finally being made and creators are being reigned in before the shaming begins and apparently it is working hopefully for the benefit of all since deserved creators are suddenly falling silent on the issue.

Advocates for comic creators rights have been foaming at the mouth ever since it was revealed that the Rocket Raccoon would be a driving force in the impending bonanza that will be the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY film to be released this summer. Rocket Raccoon’s co-creator Bill Mantlo was the victim of a horrible accident in 1992 that has left him brain damaged and institutionalized in a nursing home ever since.  Surely Bill Mantlo would be the perfect poster boy for comic creators rights if he were not to get fair compensation and credit for his contribution.

Let the shaming begin!

What? Not so fast?!

Bill’s brother and legal guardian Mike Mantlo boldly called off the dogs by releasing this statement:

“FOLKS, FOLKS, FOLKS…..please, enough of the hating on Marvel. Marvel has compensated, is compensating, and will continue to compensate Bill well into the future for anything that he’s entitled to compensation for. Please don’t spread false or malicious rumors, gang. Bill’s relationship with Marvel is EXCELLENT, and I wish for it to continue to be so. And all the false or exaggerated “facts” being tossed around about his accident (he was NOT in a coma for “years”, and the family was NOT put into financial ruin or destitution, among other WRONG “facts”). Yes, Bill was the victim of a horrible and tragic accident. Blowing everything out of proportion does no one any good. You guys (ALL OF YOU) have been a Godsend to Bill for these past 22 years by keeping his name & reputation alive, and by continuing to champion my cause of helping him improve his quality of life in whatever way I can, and I thank you ALL sincerely for that. Please, let’s try some positive energy for the fu! ture, so that BILL MANTLO WILL RULE FOREVER!”

In another release he states:

“Folks, on behalf of Bill I urge everyone to SUPPORT the “GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY” film, and help it have TREMENDOUS SUCCESS. That will benefit Bill Mantlo more than anyone could ever imagine”

Give Marvel and Disney some credit for recognizing that they were not going to be able to compete with the public hazing generated by support for a severely handicapped writer in a wheel chair that is responsible, along with artist Keith Giffen, for what looks like will be the fuzzy, break out star of the summer, Rocket Raccoon, who would have surely been a rabid thorn in their side if they had not struck preemptively.

Thank you!

It will be a pleasure to watch a Marvel film for a change without experiencing some kind of guilt for knowing that a creator or an heir (Most notably, Jack Kirby and his family) has been left unfairly compensated.  If only this could be the fundamental business practice of the comics industry from now on.

Let’s keep the ball rolling!

Maybe the big guys have finally realized that he positive PR generated from treating creators fairly is in everyone’s favor including their own.

Like Mike Mantlo, I sincerely hope that GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is a monolithic success. I know that because of Bill’s situation, he will never truly be able to enjoy any measure of profit that is generated by the film, though it will surely benefit his care.  The comfort is that ,in the shadow of the film’s great success , his personal story will become such a high profile subject that he will be immortalized in the pantheon of comic book and pop culture history where he belongs.

Bill Mantlo is a reminder to us all that though money is important it does not last forever and it is purely materialistic. Being recognized and acknowledged for our contributions and creations is what seals a place in history and in the hearts of all that enjoy our work.

Acknowledgement and acceptance is what creators, regardless what art they practice, truly live for.

So when the credits role by, and should you hopefully see Bill Mantlo’s name, jump out of our seat and cheer so loud that he feels the warm tremor as he sits in his nursing home beaming with pride because he knows in his soul that he is loved for something he created.

Gerry Giovinco

Fans of Bill’s work can follow updates from his brother on the Bill Mantlo facebook group .

Make donations here.

or mail Bill cards and well wishes to:

Bill Mantlo

c/o Queens Nassau Nursing Home

520 Beach 19th Street

Far Rockaway, NY 11691

Belated Birthday Wishes to Bill Mantlo and Roger Slifer

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

This weekend past, two influential comic creators celebrated their birthdays from the sterile comfort of their hospital beds, both victims of separate, near fatal, hit-and-run car accidents that resulted in severe brain trauma for each.

Bill Mantlo turned 61 this past Friday, November 9, 2012. Bill was struck by a car while rollerblading in New York on July 17, 1992 and after a long coma has lived in a healthcare facility ever since. He has been a shell of his former self for over twenty years.

Roger Slifer turned 58 on Sunday, November 11, 2012. Roger was struck by a car in Santa Monica, California while walking in the early morning hours of June 23, 2012 after spending an evening with his friends. It was recently posted by Jim Salicrup on Roger’s facebook page that after an induced coma Roger has been physically responsive and is awaiting surgery to replace part of his skull that was removed to take pressure off of his swollen brain. He has a long road of challenges in front of him and we can only hope and pray for his full recovery.

To this date, neither driver has ever been brought to justice but miracles do happen and should anyone who knows anything about either incident possibly be reading this, please leave a comment or contact us at and we will be sure to forward the information to the appropriate authorities. Very specific info regarding Roger Slifer’s incident can be found here.

As the holidays approach please remember both of these gentlemen that brought so much joy to our lives through their work. I am sure belated birthday cards will still be enjoyed as will Thanksgiving wishes and Christmas and holiday cards.

Mailing addresses for each men are as follows:

Bill Mantlo
c/o Queens Nassau Nursing Home
520 Beach 19th Street
Far Rockaway, NY 11691

Roger Slifer
c/o Connie Carlton (his sister – she will see that they get to his hospital in California)
815 E 1000 N
Morristown, IN 46161

Please DO NOT send money, clothes, gifts, original art or anything of value to the nursing home or hospital as they may be stolen, damaged or destroyed. Photocopies of fan art or comic covers would be fine and encouraged since both men seem to respond very positively to images of comics, especially ones that they worked on.

Adding to the coincidence that both of these men share similar comic careers as writers, frighteningly similar life altering tragedies and the same birthday weekend, their legacies may be mutually impacted by the recent rumor announced just before their birthdays on November 8th, 2012 that Disney has interest in purchasing the giant toy company, Hasbro.

Hasbro owns the rights to the Micronauts and ROM SpaceKnight, two properties that Bill Mantlo was the driving creative force behind when writing comics for Marvel (Not to mention his co-creation of Rocket Raccoon which is is rumored to be featured in the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy film owned and produced by Marvel/Disney)

Hasbro also owns the rights to several properties that Roger Slifer had huge creative involvement in as writer, editor or producer through his relationship with the animation company Sunbow Entertainment where he worked after leaving DC Comics where he co- created Lobo. Roger worked on G.I. Joe, Transformers, Street Fighter and Jem and the Holograms.

Should Disney ultimately own Hasbro, along with Marvel and Lucas Films they will have spent presumably well over 12 billion dollars absorbing properties that have impacted the youth market of every generation since the 1940’s thanks to the fertile minds of creators like Bill Mantlo and Roger Slifer though few have befallen their personal tragedies.

Disney’s expenditures surely are only motivated by profit and expectedly will generate billions more just as the Avengers movie proved with its record breaking box office tote. Wouldn’t it be nice if Disney would use a tiny fraction of that enormous wealth and create a program to help creators in desperate need like Bill and Roger without whom there would be no cash cow to exploit?

We can only hope for miracles.

As we head into this holiday season, I would love to see  a heart grow in a corporation like Disney that wants to be recognized as a person when it comes time to declaring taxes. (To be fair they did just donate three million dollars to the victims of  Hurricane Sandy.) I’d like to see that heart grow ten times more and watch all the bean counting grinches share that wealth with the folks that are responsible for it.

But if I could only wish for one miracle it would be for Bill and Roger to be healthy again so that they can realize how much we, as fans, appreciate all the wonder that they brought to our lives with their brilliant talent. Thank you, men.

Happy belated birthday, Bill and Roger!  You are both in all of our thoughts and prayers.

Making Comics Because We Want to,

Gerry Giovinco

Give Thanks to Bill Mantlo

Monday, November 21st, 2011

Another Thanksgiving is gaining on us and this year there seems to be less and less to be thankful for. The economy sucks, the world is in turmoil, and everyone is miserable. Boy, I can’t wait for Christmas! I think I’ll ask Santa for a “happy pill.”

I am generally an optimistic person and have often been accused of living in “Gerry World” by my family and friends for my unwillingness to be dragged down by life’s burdens. I am a firm believer that everything is relative. I have a hard time complaining about life in our country  when I compare it to the standards of living in an economically devastated place like Darfur.

I remember a time when I was having a particularly bad day, the car had broken down and I was stranded in the middle of nowhere with my son who was getting very upset by the situation. I shared with him two fatherly bits of advice: “shit happens” and never say, “it can’t get any worse.”

Years later we look at that experience and laugh, both at how we managed to get through that micro-crisis in one piece  and  at how many times since we have needed to refer to those two particular life lessons.

My theory of relativity was tested when I read the recent web post Tragic Tale, a lengthy, nine-page, article that details the tragedy that has befallen legendary Marvel Comics writer Bill Mantlo whose most notable works were The Micronauts, Rom Spaceknight, Cloak and Dagger, and The Incredible Hulk along with a huge array of other titles. Mantlo was struck by a hit-and-run driver while rollerblading in New York in 1995. He has been left, brain damaged and stranded by the system in a nursing home, forgotten by the legion of fans that for many years found joy in his work.

Many people were shocked and devastated by the news which was delivered with an agenda to illustrate, through Mantlo’s experience, how the Health Insurance Industry and Federal Healthcare Reform does not work in America. The story was embellished a bit to accentuate the author’s point but none of that changes the fact that Bill Mantlo’s life has been ruined by a tragic accident and his existence has been reduced to a pale shadow of his former boisterous self.

Ladies and gentlemen, anyone who has ever enjoyed a Bill Mantlo  comic, anyone who has ever worked with Bill Mantlo and anyone who has ever considered themselves a comic creator or enthusiast, please, this holiday season, please, remember that one of our own, a member of the comics family, needs us. Bill Mantlo needs to be remembered, not just for his contribution to comics but for still being human. Bill Mantlo’s body may be broken, his brain may be damaged, but he is still a person with rights to dignity and a need to be loved and respected.

Like many people who call themselves comic creators, I have a need to work a full time job to pay the bills and provide health benefits for my family while I pursue my interests here at CO2 Comics. I have worked in a long term healthcare facility for  a number of years as an Activity Professional. It is my job to ensure that people like Bill Mantlo enjoy whatever quality of life they are capable of. I put smiles on their faces and help to make their existence as bearable as possible. I do this by respecting them for who they are, today. Though I do not know Bill personally and have never had the opportunity to meet him, I know from my own experience what kind of life he is currenrtly living.

Not everyone is as lucky as Bill Mantlo to have had the opportunity to entertain an adoring audience around the world with his writing. While we can all be sad that Bill may never write again or enjoy the life he once had we can all give back to him a sample of the joy that his work gave to us simply by sending him a greeting card this holiday season or writing him a short note of friendship or a thank you. This may sound trite but in a healthcare facility something as simple as mail is a big deal.

Mail is required by law to be delivered immediately to residents. For someone like Bill, who may not have a lot of personal interaction with staff, an extra visit a day by a warm bodied person delivering mail has a big impact. It becomes an even bigger deal when someone, wether it be staff or a family member takes the time to help him read his mail. I personally enjoy delivering mail to my residents because I know that it is another opportunity for me to impact their day and get to know them better.

Bill Mantlo and his sister-in-law Lizbeth

I have been in contact with Bill’s brother, Michael Mantlo, and he is excited about the idea of Bill getting mail sent to him at the healthcare facility. Michael stresses that there be NO requests for autographs, correspondence, or art from Bill since it would be difficult and frustrating for him to respond to them, also he asks  to please send nothing legal, financial or solicitous. A simple short note of appreciation and well wishes will go a long way!

Please DO NOT send money, clothes, gifts,  original art or anything of value as they may be stolen, damaged or destroyed. Photocopies of fan art or comic covers would be fine and encouraged since Bill seems to respond very positively to images of comics, especially ones that he worked on.

Please send any mail to the following address:

Bill Mantlo

c/o Queens Nassau Nursing Home

520 Beach 19th Street

Far Rockaway, NY 11691

It is important to note that although  the Tragic Tale article painted a devastating picture of Bill’s existence at the nursing home, his brother wrote me, “the facility is not really as bleak as the writer of that article made it out to be.  Bill’s room is pretty basic, but that is by both necessity, and choice.  Bill has “trashed” his room (sometimes severely) many times, and wants no part of a radio, TV or phone.  I had provided all of those to him, at one time or another, and all have either been destroyed by him in a fit of rage, or he has demanded that they be removed.  After 19 years, I have learned that it is far better to acquiesce to Bill’s demands than to enrage him.  No one benefits from his angry explosions, least of all Bill.”

Michael has also sent me a few recent pictures of Bill that show him smiling and happily enjoying the company of family members who had come to visit.

Nobody likes nursing homes, they can be a depressing place that people envision you go to to die. The reality is that nursing homes are where people that cannot take care of themselves or whose family are not adequately equipped to care for them properly go to live. The facility is their home and they are protected by the same rights that we all have. Some facilities are better than others but all are made better when people step up to the plate and show the residents that someone cares for them.

My wish for Bill Mantlo this holiday season is that he has a reason to smile everyday and that he knows that he is not forgotten. So please, send him mail, if you are religious, pray for him and maybe, just maybe, Bill will experience a miracle and at least feel a little bit more human everyday.

Thanks, Bill, for the happiness you gave me as a young comic reader. The Micronauts was one of my favorite comic books!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Making Comics Because I Want To

Gerry Giovinco

Encouraging Comics

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

Last week in the blog I made mention that, back in the day, comics had a long running stigma as the ghetto of the art world and was not a career that most talented illustrators aspired to. The art educators that I encountered were usually very quick to dissuade anyone expressing interest in comics. This caustic atmosphere made it difficult to maintain an enthusiasm toward a medium that was so poorly regarded. Fortunately much of that attitude has changed.

Regardless of all the detractors I encountered as an art student I could not deny that comics was where my heart was and I continued to focus all of my energies on the pursuit of a career in comics.

I chose to ignore the unenlightened and gravitate toward those that offered encouraging support. My experience was that people outside of the arts community were much more impressed with the idea of me wanting to be a comic artist.

Comics is a medium that everyone can relate to simply because it is hard not to understand a message delivered by both words and pictures. It also helped that the most successful comics usually dealt with universal themes that most people could relate to. I always felt that this was my attraction to the medium, that it was a medium for the masses.

Growing up I was always able to find encouragement from family, friends and school teachers. In 1978 during my junior year at Bishop Kenrick High School I had a unique experience that had a solidifying effect on my cartooning interests.

Sister Henrietta

My Algebra teacher at the time was an extremely elderly nun named Sister Henrietta. She was a lovely woman but had lost control of the class partly due to her feeble old age. The kids in the class were so bad she would douse us with holy water each day in an effort to exercise the demons from the room!

I was shocked one day when, despite the mayhem that was the general conduct of the class, Sister Henrietta, signaled me out for doodling in my notebook and ordered that I see her after class.

Expecting detention or at least demerits for my infraction I was delighted to find out that, instead, Sister Henrietta was a fan of my handmade comics that I frequently distributed around school.


Little did she know that she would eventually become a character in one of my creations when I would parody the entire Math department in a comic titled Mathmanauts inspired by one of my favorite comics of the time, Micronauts by Bill Mantlo and Michael Golden.

Inspiration fot The Mathmanauts

Sister had much more up her sleeve than respect for my work. She had a deal in mind. The same deal she presented to a former student of hers who she wondered if I might know.

Bil Keane 1990

Decades prior, the great Bil Keane, creator of the iconic Family Circus daily comic, was a doodler in her class and she let him off the hook with a promise that he would pursue his dream and be a successful cartoonist.

We all know that Bil lived up to his end of the deal, still creating his comic now with the help of his son, Jeff.

Sister Henrietta had stayed in touch with Bil Keane over the years and, shortly after I had agreed to the same promise, she rewarded me with a piece of original art and an encouraging critique received from Bil himself in response to some samples of my work that she had sent to him unbeknownst to me.

Bil Keane Letter

Delivering on a promise

Bil Keane’s shoes are nearly impossible to fill but I was anxious to be included in the pedigree of Sister’s success stories. In 1982 I rushed to the convent to personally deliver a copy of my first published comic work that appeared in Comico Primer #1. Bedridden, it was clear that Sister Henrietta would not be with us much longer but she found great comfort knowing that she was still able to encourage the dreams of her students.

That Family Circus original still hangs by my drawing board as a constant reminder of my deal made with Sister over thirty years ago. It has come to my attention that she made that deal with every doodler she encountered though I like to think that I am one of the few that have such a precious memento and actually delivered on my end of the bargain.

Original Bil Keane

When I was informed recently by my friend and former student of Sister Henrietta’s, Aaron Keaton, that Sister sprung that deal regularly in her day, I dropped a quick email to Bil Keane letting him know how she had used his example to keep us hack doodlers in line all those years.

Bil simply responded, “That sounds like, Sister!

I have a few more great stories like this that include encounters with Arnold Roth, Rudy Nebres and others that have offered moral support to me when when I was a budding comic creator which I will share in coming weeks.

If anyone out there has similar tales I would love to read them! Send them along as comments on the blog or directly to me by e-mail. I’ll be happy to share them here.

Encouragement makes a huge difference, especially to a young creator seeking creative direction in their life. I make it a point to be a positive influence on a young talent every chance I get and I hope that other comics creators do the same.

Influence is a legacy that can rarely be measured but its impact is universal.

Making Comics Because I Want to.

Gerry Giovinco

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